Wombats are being credited for herding animals to safety, that isn’t the real story, but their warrens are providing a safe-haven to animals in need.
Australia (15 January 2020) – As we always say, in times of trouble, look for the helpers and this time, the helpers are Wombats. Yes, you read that correctly! It has been reported that Wombats have been herding scared animals away from the fires and down into the safety of their deep burrows.
Let that sink in for a moment… it honestly brings tears to our eyes. So we had to know more, after a bit of digging, we found out that it is, in fact, fake news that wombats are rounding up scared animals and herding them into the burrows. They are not doing that at all, this isn’t a Beatrix Potter novel after all! Wombats are actually little grumps and will charge at other animals if they feel threatened.
BUT, Wombats have become accidental helpers. Their deep warrens are fire resistant and act as great protection from the heat above ground. They consist of networks deep underground that have many entry and exit spaces as well as tunnels and burrows for them to sleep.
Wombats can dig a network of tunnels and burrows that reaches around 90 metres. These tunnels can possibly save lives. It is said that much like Goldylocks, the Wombat can’t sleep in just one bed and many will have multiple burrows connected to their network so they can sleep in different spaces.
This means there are many abandoned or empty burrows that span across the habitats of Australia. This is very good news!
The University of Melbourne did a study on the Wombat Warrens and it was during this study that they learned how other animals made use of the network. During their study, they observed 34 different warrens and saw at great frequency, how other animals also used the network of tunnels.
“The intruders ranged from rock wallabies and bettongs to skinks and birds. Little penguins were recorded using burrows 27 times, while the black-footed rock wallaby was observed using wombat burrows more often than wombats – nearly 2,000 visits in eight weeks! They were even observed using the burrows to specifically avoid birds of prey.”
Take a look at some of the footage below.
As mentioned in the article by the Conversation, should wombats and other animals survive the fires using the burrows, they now face having to defend themselves from predators who will be roaming the disaster areas for injured animals as well as face the challenge of food scarcity. Thankfully, the Australian Government is addressing the food problem from above!
Hopefully, once the fires have been brought under control, the scientists will head back out to the warrens to see if they played an essential role in saving lives. This can be carried out by checking for carcasses or dropping of animals. Only time will tell.
While the devastation is widespread, there is also light at the end of the tunnel and Australia will bounce back! Animals considered to be pests, such as the rabbit, will have been brought under control without human intervention and as for the vegetation, a fire always brings new life! We have seen that time and time again.